The Lost Girl by Carol Drinkwater
I am so glad that I decided to read this particular novel by a writer who has become so precious in my reading life this last twelve months as a accomplished biography writer.
Read in isolation this would have been a wonderfully dynamic and emotionally arresting novel set in Post War Paris and the Cote D’Azure and in Paris in the modern day, intertwining the lives of two women who at first glance could not seem more different. who meet on one traumatic and historically resonant night in Paris in 2015.
Kurtis is in a state of emotional flux, the sudden loss of her teenage daughter as a runaway has impacted every day since, fracturing a marriage which was already showing cracks and fissures and for better or worse allowing an alluring American to capture her passions and emotions, further muddying her marital tension.
After a reconciliation of sorts in search of a common goal, she sits in a bar in Paris awaiting word from her fading Actor Husband Oliver on whether he was able to find and bring her daughter to her for a reunion she has been dreaming of since her daughter’s disappearance.
Here she meets Marguerite and elderly film star of regal bearing who becomes her saviour and eventually confidante after it becomes apparent Lizzie and Oliver have been caught up in the Bataclan Terrorist incident of November 2015.
Here Carol Drinkwater crafts a complex story with a constantly moving narrative where the gentle romance of two post war young people is interwoven with the modern day travails of Kurtis and Oliver.
Charlie and Marguerite are outsiders whose chance meeting and shared adventure bring them to love.She is seeking solace in the glamour of the movie making haven of Cannes and it’s environs and, He seeking anonymity in a long dreamed for rural idyll. By seeking to be come part of the agricultural fabric of the Riviera ,growing glorious scented blooms for a local perfumery,Charlie makes an attempt to escape from the bitter memories and traumas of the War.
It is brave and difficult to set a large portion of a book in the real events of a very recent terrorist atrocity, readers will have their memories of that awful night, but Carol’s descriptions of those first traumatic, confusing and manic hours is tightly described and sensitively handled.
What elevates the book to something quite extraordinary is the authenticity of the description of the French and Middle Eastern settings in flashback, the fragrances, the flavours and colourful snapshots of the flora and fauna of the area. The Rose harvest in the book echoes strongly of the issues the Carole and her beloved husband Michel had with their olive harvests and her love for the people and the area is evident and boosts this part of the story immensely.
Carol’s personal experience as an olive farmer, beekeeper and adventurer on the ancient routes of the Olive informs and enriches the story, giving it a depth that is rare in stories of a similar type.
I loved the story, was swept away by Marguerite and Charlie , felt the pain of Kurtis in the uncertainly of that night and the the confusion and frustrations at the gradual unraveling of her marriage after their own whirlwind romance and the palpable , if not final loss of a child. The uncertainty is a bar to all but a cursory existence rather than a rich and fulfilling life, something Marguerite has managed despite personal tragedy.
I liked the juxtaposition of the two central women, seeking personal fulfilment outside the domestic confines.
I left this story with a warm glow. The final chapters are a wonderful reward, more than that I cannot divulge.